February 2019

Mid winter, lots of snow, cold, rain, and more snow. Not more than 3″ to 12″ at a time, but lots of storms. That means cleaning the driveway each day, before I get to go to the shop.

Well, it wasn’t all bad weather. We had some sunny (and cold) days as well. It really is nice to walk through the woods on a clear winter day. The snow is full of deer, squirrel, porcupine, and snowshoe hare tracks. And an occasional fox.

It wouldn’t be February without Valentines Day. Even out here on a dirt road in New Gloucester, Maine, the Valentine’s Day Bandit left a heart on our porch. Much appreciated and enjoyed.

Between all the less than desirable weather and the effort keeping the driveway clear, I did get work done in the shop. The lectern I started in January was finally finished, gilded and delivered.

The better part of the month was taken up with the construction of a tall cupboard. The dimensions are the same as the Shaker original, only the wood and the panels have been changed. It is a really nice storage cabinet, yet takes only a foot and a half of floor space.

The next project, started on this last day of February, is a pair of Haystack arm chairs. Tomorrow I’m off to purchase a cow hide for the leather seats.

Don’t forget to also check out the my Instagram page for more goings on around the shop and the neighborhood. Lots of fun stuff going on.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2019

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January 2019

Each year seems to roll by a little faster than the last.  Here we are in 2019, late January, and it’s wicked cold.  Earlier this month we didn’t have much snow, so the skating was fantastic.  Went out a few times with my daughter on some of the lakes and ponds in the area.The ice was about 8″ thick.  More recently, we’ve had a few snowstorms, which brought the skating to a grinding halt.  It was fun while it lasted.  However, the snow is not bad either.  Makes everything look clean and bright.The big January event  was a trip to Kentucky, to do a dovetail workshop and book signing at Lost Art Press.  It was most enjoyable, meeting and re-connecting with some great people, good food and severely delicious bourbon.  Quite the catalog of books that Chris Schwarz has published.  I’m proud to be part of the select few authors.  While I was there, Chris, Megan and I took a day to visit the Pleasant Hill Shaker village.  Renovations were almost done, so there was almost no furniture, but the empty, clean rooms were astoundingly beautiful.The spiral stairs in the Trustees Office are always an eye catcher.  A matched set, in opposite directions on either side of the hall.  Magnificent.Back at home, the Maine Crafts Association   asked me to do a book signing at the new Maine Craft Portland gallery. The organization has done a marvelous job of  converting this old jewelry store. I brought a lamp, music stand, and a Shaker tea cabinet to display.  A nice afternoon.I did get a few things done in the shop.  First off, it was time to sharpen a few tools.  I dug out my four water stones, 220, 1000, 4000 and 8000 grit, and got to work.Once sharpened, I made a small wall mirror, a bit different this time. Instead of the square top with a slight curve on the inside, this mirror had a Gothic arch with a half round inside..  Turned out well.  Its hard to find delphiniums in Maine in January.Next up was a lectern.  It looks pretty simple, but looks can be deceiving. The side splay of the legs is slightly different than the front and back splay.  Add to that the angle of the work surface, and I had to make a full scale drawing to keep all the cuts straight.  Right now it’s almost done, just waiting for some gilding in the front, final glue up and oiling. 

While waiting, I’m starting the next project, a tall cupboard, one of my classics. If you get bored between monthly blogs, have a look at my Instagram site, which I update on a more regular basis.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2019

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December 2018

Another year gone by.  A usual, there were ups and downs, but all in all, more ups! First the weather was iffy,  went to below zero, and then a few days of rain.  We actually had more snow in November than this month.Despite the weather I still go for my morning and evening walks.  It de-stresses, and  makes me appreciate what’s good in my life, and the beautiful state I live in.  One of my favorite places is at the bottom of the hill, along a stone wall through our woods.The high point this month (or maybe even the entire year) was the publication, and arrival of my third book, Shaker Inspiration.  It consists of three parts, basic woodworking, business practices, and the inspiration I’ve gotten from Shaker designs.  Included are 20 measured drawings by Jim Richey.  My wife, Peg, took most of the photos.  So far the book is doing well, and has been enthusiastically received.I made a couple of wall lamps at the beginning of the month, both curved and straight.  The straight version will be featured in Fine Woodworking soon.  The glass globes are by Tandem Glass, of Dresden, ME.The big December project in the shop was a media cabinet, a low case with mitered corners, the whole sitting on a short base.  The upper portion was 5′ long and 20″ deep, but only 12″ high.  Cutting the miters was not a problem, neither was cutting stopped grooves for 19″ splines in each miter.  Gluing and aligning the fragile 1/8″ splines into four corners at once with no help was a challenge.  It all went well.  The sliding doors were also problematic, since the customer wanted plain-sawn figured wood, not quarter-sawn or frame and panel doors.  I left plenty of room for expansion at the top, routed in two dovetailed battens in each door and gave them an extra coat of oil/ spar varnish mix. The customer also wanted carvings in the bed I’d completed previously.  That was quick work.  I enjoy carving.  It’s quiet, no machinery involved, but I can crank up the music.  Love and Peace go well with a bed, both on the inner side of the head and foot rails.Believe it or not, I finally got a phone.  Well actually it’s a portable computer that sometimes acts as a phone.  Anyway, it’s now much easier to do Instagram, and way more fun.   Have a look at the site.

Happy New Year, or Glückliches neues Jahr.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2018

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November 2018

Lots of small, large, interesting, boring, significant, memorable, and best forgotten projects and events this November.   Earlier this month we took a morning off to drive to Reid State Park, where my wife was doing a photo shoot. The park has, I think, the best of both worlds:  a long sand beach, and a rocky headland.  It is particularly  fun in November, after a storm and after the tourists have left.  There were even a few surfers.Just a few days later, we had our first significant snow.  Three, actually, serious enough to close schools.  That’s three snow days before winter has officially started.On one of the non-snow days I got a call from my upholsterer, that the day bed was finally done.  It turned out really well, with gray leather, gray and black leather pillows, and light gray canvas bolsters.  Looks great in its new home.I got to build two breakfast tables. The first was missing a detail that the customer really liked.   I hardly ever build the same piece the same way.  But the customer is paying, so he or she gets what they want.  The second will get shipped off with six other pieces, while the first one will find a home locally.  I try to do whatever it takes to keep customers satisfied and coming back.  It’s good business.Also built a Shaker round stand, that graceful one with the wine-bottle shaped post.I started a Shaker style bed, which I’m hoping to finish next week, barring any unforeseen interruptions. The posts are done, and yesterday I did the rails and bed bolts.At last, the new book, Shaker Inspirations, is in the Lost Art Press warehouse and will ship out next week.  It’s been a few years in the making, and I for one, am anxious to hold a copy.  Those who pre-ordered should have theirs soon.  If you haven’t ordered one yet, there is still time before the holidays.

I’m also going through my five decades of accumulated stuff and trying to downsize.  Just sold my Stanley #77 dowel maker.  The Norris #61 plane is still on ebay.  Have a look if you’re interested

Lastly, after much arm twisting and figuring out how to do this without a phone (yes, I still have a rotary land line in my shop), I’ve succumbed to the lure of Instagram.  Now that’s something!

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October 2018

Another year older, but October is still my favorite month.  The weather is good, the bugs are gone, the colors are amazing.  It’s hard to beat Maine, or New England in the fall.It is also the month of the annual MCA’s Maine Craft weekend.  This year we had 44 visitors.  I sold as few tools, books, DVDs, some wood,  and prototypes.  In turn, I was gifted with two bottles of Scotch, Highland Park from the Orkney Islands, and a bottle of Kavalan Solist from Taiwan.  Both severely delicious.

October is also Harvest Festival time at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village.  I was there again, demonstrating, chatting and enjoying the folks who stopped by.  A fine Saturday.

Friends Work Weekend was also fun.  A chance to catch up with friends of the Shakers we only see a few times each year.  Screens were removed, gardens cleaned, windows washed, and piles of leaves raked and taken away.  The following day, Peg and I took a hike through the woods to see the remains of the Shaker mill.  There is not much left but the foundation, and the raceway to the millpond.  Still, it is spectacular to see the huge granite blocks left of what once was a 5-story mill, with a 30′ wheel inside the building.  Meanwhile, in the shop, I finished the 5-drawer chest.  The obvious work is in the dovetails, all 98 of them.  The real fussy work is in the web frames, which have to be dovetailed into both sides of the front and back, as well as mortised and tenoned to allow wood movement.  These are the tools I use for layout and measuring the precise fit:Like most Shaker and Shaker inspired pieces, the finished product doesn’t begin to show the complexity of the construction.  Simple, yes?Speaking of Shaker Inspiration, the book is less than a month away from distribution.  The PDF version is already available form the Lost Art Press

The hard cover version should be out by Thanksgiving if all goes well at the printer.  Be on the look out.  I’m pretty excited.  It’s been three years (and 5 decades) in the making.

C.H. Becksvoort © 2018


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September 2018

This September has certainly been interesting.   A few incidents of note along our road.  Every fall, red efts, the second stage of the eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), are on the move to find places to spend the winter.  This one was only about 1.2″ (3.5 cm) long, probably from this spring.Also along my walks, I chanced upon a yew (Taxus yew) shrub, complete with those cute red fruit, which are poisonous.Around the shop and yard, I was also pretty busy.  Last spring I dug down to bedrock and poured two footers for the garden shed.  This September, with the help of my son, we finally got the shed re-positioned.  The front right side had to be lowered 3″ (7.6 cm), while the back had to be jacked up almost 5″ (12.7 cm).  The stones upon which the back rested were not on bedrock, and had sunk into the ground.  Time to fix.  It took the better part of a day.The following weekend, we took off for the Hancock Shaker Village, for a Natalie Merchant concert. Sorry, no photos allowed, but I got some good ones of the round stone barn: 

Built in 1826, it features amazing stonework.It’s the interior framing that is even more stunning, and complex.  It is two and a half stories high: a manure pit mostly below ground level, the first floor for cattle, and the second floor the wagon floor.  The entire  central portion is the hay mow.  Wagons would come up the ramp to the second floor and the hay would be pitched into the center, 55′ (16.8 m) in diameter, and almost 40′ (12.2 m) high,with a ventilation shaft in the middle.September is usually our vacation month.  We took the last week to go to Trenton, ME, just this side of Acadia National Park. There is so much to do and see.  Of course I went to the tool barn at Hull’s Cove.  It’s always s must see.  This late in the season, there wasn’t anything that I found, or needed.  My daughter picked up a load of goodies, however.The weather was varied, from sunny and mild to stormy and wild.  The fog was in and the waves were crashing on the pink granite when we visited the Schoodic portion of the park.We spent a good bit of time exploring the rest of the park.  Just had to have pop-overs at the Jordan Pond  House, saw several of our favorite places, including this isolated little patch.  It was where I visited the first time I came to Acadia in 1969.In downtown Bar Harbor we spent a bit of time going through the Abbe Museum, where they had an exhibit of Abanaki war clubs, as well as this marvelous birch bark canoe.We also explored nearby Ellsworth, a really nice town, once you get off the commercial strip into the older downtown. Met friends at the KoT Gallery, went to dinner and of course we had to sample the local brews at Fogtown.Nothing lasts forever, and now I’m back in the shop.  Before vacation I did get a third coat of oil onto the single door cabinet.  It turned out nicely, with some interesting figure in the door panels.Next up is a five-drawer chest.  I’ve got the two sides and the top laid out from one 22″ (55.9 cm) cherry board.  It awaits my return early Monday morning.

The new book, Shaker Inspiration: Five Decades of Fine Craftsmanship, by the Lost Art Press, is almost off to the printer, and should be for sale by late November or early December.  Watch for it.

C.H. Becksvoort © 2018

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August 2018

It’s been one hot month.  And humid.  Not your typical Maine weather.  I took my walks extra early to avoid the heat, but still got soaked by the humidity.Foggy almost every morning, and the moisture hung around all day.  It was good for the plants, though.  The garden was loving it.  Lots of tomatoes, and the usual end of summer flowers, black eyed Susans, golden rod, and Queen Ann’s lace.   Also a good crop of morning glories, which I trained to climb up my sign post in front of the house, as well as along the woodshed and shop.August is also the time for the annual gathering of the Friends of the Shakers. A great time to meet friends, attend lectures, inspect the grounds, see the new acquisitions to the museum, eat, and socialize. During the course of the last year, severe weather brought down one of the big maples in front of the Meeting House, damaging the roof.  Many of the maples were getting old, and decaying, and had to be cut down.  The roof got new shingles, but it will take a while to get used to the loss of those stately old trees.

Next to the Meeting House is the herb garden.  The Shakers still grow and sell a variety of herbs and teas. In the 1794 Meeting House, still in use, is one of the white pine lecterns I made back in the mid 1980’s.Things were busy in my shop as well.  The day bed I started last month finally came together.  There were lots of slats that had to be oiled.  I have a rack with dowels to keep small parts ( like slats and drawer bottoms) separated while the finish dries.The bed itself, finally oiled, assembled, and done, awaits the mattress, bolsters and pillows, currently at the upholsterer.  Not a great photo, especially with limited space,but you get the general idea of the design.I also made six more wall arm lamps, in a variety of woods and shapes.  The four and the left consist of three parts, splined together, plus the base.  the base is screwed to the wall, while the arm swivels.  A groove in top hides the cord, which comes out at the bottom of the base.  The two on the right and single pieces of cherry and maple.  The curvy on on the far right will be burnt with a blowtorch, brushed,and given a coat of satin varnish.  All are destined to go to Tandem Glass for a variety of glass globes and shades.It’s been some time since I got an order for one of my early coat trees.  It is six sided, in cherry, with the Mt. Lebanon acorn finial on top and Shaker pegs below.For the next few months, I’ll be working on a big order destined for Canada, several case pieces, tables and a bed.  I just got a nice load of 20″ wide cherry (from Irion Lumber in Pennsylvania) for a few of those case pieces. 

That’s it for this month.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2018


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